Saturday, 29 September 2018

St Michael's, Church Stowe


St Michael's Church dates back to Saxon times and was built upon a Neolithic worship site. The church was originally dedicated to St Ninian and then to St Peter and St Paul before its rededication in 1560 to St Michael. The tower with its medieval battlements is original (circa 950-1100) but the body of the church has been rebuilt twice, once in 1639 and again in 1859. Preserved in the church are seven early Roman and Saxon carved stones; three built into the tower and the others are in the Baptistry. There is an old legend which says that the Lord of the Manor had chosen a site for the church but some supernatural entity, sometimes the devil in these instances, moved the foundation stones of the church to a different location over eight consecutive nights before being built on its present site.
Upon entering the Sanctuary around the altar, on the right side can be seen a marvellous funerary monument by the great sculptor Nicholas Stone (c. 1586-1647) Master Mason to King James 1st and to King Charles 1st. The effigy is of Lady Elizabeth Carey, born Elizabeth Neville around 1545; she married Sir John Danvers (1540-1594) and later in 1598 Sir Edmund Carey (1557-1637).

The marble monument was commissioned by her son, the Earl of Danby and it was completed in 1620, ten years before Lady Elizabeth's death in 1630 aged 84. So we can say it is a very good likeness of her Ladyship as she les there resplendent in all her finery.

She lies as if sleeping in a fine ermine robe which is open to reveal a masterfully carved and delicately embroidered bodice. her head is partially wrapped in cloth but rests elegantly upon an equally well carved pillow.
The exquisite detail even down to her tiny shoes, one of which is supported by her heraldic griffin, is awe inspiring and one can see why this is one of the greatest pieces of funerary monuments, certainly of the works of the master Nicholas Stone, second only in importance to his monument to the poet John Donne in St Paul's Cathedral.
The marble monument cost £220 in its time and this magnificent tomb has lain almost hidden and escaped the destructive hand through the passage of time; it is a true treasure and a testimony to the art and skill of the Master Sculptor - Nicholas Stone. 
Leaving Lady Elizabeth to sleep away the centuries, on the opposite side of the altar, the left as you enter the Sanctuary, is another stone effigy, that of Gerard de Lisle (1304-1360).

The grey Purbeck marble tomb of Sir Gerard de Lisle shows him as a medieval crusader knight ( he was knighted in 1327 and created  Baron Lisle in 1357). he lies cross-legged with his tunic over his chain mail and in his left hand he is holding a shield with a long-tailed lion. the front of the tomb bears a shield depicting the arms of the de Lisle family.
in 1310, during the reign of Edward 11, the Lord of Stowe, Sir Gerard's father, took up arms against the King and was taken prisoner and executed. Stowe Manor was seized and held by the King. 
When Gerard showed loyalty to the Crown and took part in the Crusades, his father's possessions were restored to him and he became Lord of the Manor. Gerard fought at the Battle of Crecy in 1346 and married twice: Eleanor de Arundel sometime after December 1329, and Elizabeth le Strange, sometime before July 1351.
But there are other great monuments to see within the church and after admiring Sir Gerard, we should turn to his left side, left of the altar to see the magnificent monument on the north wall.
This is the memorial to Dr Thomas Turner, President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, who bequeathed the manor and estates to the governors of a charity for the relief of poor widows and children of clergymen. This vast wall tablet is by Thomas Stayner (1668-1731) and is perhaps his most ambitious work. Carved of variegated marble and erected by the Sons of the Clergy Corporation in gratitude for a legacy of £18,000 with which the Corporation bought the Manor of Stowe.

The two life-size figures on either side show Doctor Thomas Turner on the left, holding a book and resting one foot on a terrestrial globe, while on the right (above) the other figure represents 'Christian Faith' balanced on a celestial globe.
Before leaving the church also take note of the Monument to John Day, also on the north wall. Day was the Controller of the Foreign Post Office and his monument was erected in the church by his daughters who commissioned John Middleton of Towcester to do the work. One of his daughters was the third wife of the Reverend John Lloyd D.D. who was Rector of Stowe from 1754-1789.

Saturday, 22 September 2018


Some of the sights from my walk along the Hadrian's Wall path
Near Heddon-on-the-Wall
The Stanley Plantation where I found an abundance of Woody Nightshade
The dark plantation
The Church of St Oswald on the site of the 7th Century Battle of Heavenfield
Stones that summon ghostly legions
Stones that murmur in the landscape
Onwards past Turrets
Onwards past Milecastles
To walk with the Vallum and the Wall
Which rises and falls like some aged stone serpent
Driven over mound and through hollow
Through dip and through ditch
Its undulating course persists
At Black Carts
The stones at Black Carts
The Temple of Mithras near Brocolitia Roman Fort
The Altar at the Temple of Mithras
The depiction of Mithras on the Altar
The Mithraeum in the landscape
The path from Vercovicium 'Housesteads' Roman Fort
Housestead Crags
The arched gateway in the north wall of Milecastle 37.
Shortly after this the Pennine Way crosses the Hadrian's Wall path.
After Crag Lough
Sycamore Gap
Tree and Stone
The picturesque Sycamore Gap
This little toad almost became a victim of the walkers' boot until I rescued him!
The landscape can seem almost supernatural with energy
and dark emotions that have gathered through the centuries
At Cawfield Quarry
Cawfield Crags from Cawfield Quarry
Hadrian's Wall at Hare Hill
Fungi flourish at Combecrag Wood
19th Century Tower at Birdoswald Roman Fort
The footbridge over the River Irthing
After Walltown Quarry towards Turret 45B as night descends!



Curry's Point
On 4th September 1739, Michael Curry was executed in Newcastle for the murder of Robert Shevil, the landlord of the Three Horseshoes Inn, at Hartley (Curry may have been the lover of the landlord's wife). His body was afterwards hung in chains from a gibbet on this spot, within sight of the scene of his crime. Ever since that gruesome event this headland has been known as 'Curry's Point'. This plaque was erected on 4th September 1989 to mark the 250th anniversary. St Mary's lighthouse can be seen in the background.
St Mary's Lighthouse

In 1799, Russian soldiers were quarantined on St Mary's Island after contracting cholera. few of the soldiers survived and those that died were buried there. It is also known that monks were buried there from Tynemouth Priory.

Work began on the lighthouse in 1896 and it took two years to complete. It stands at 126 feet (or 40 metres) and rises like a magnificent and ancient monument on the headland.

There is an eerie chill inside the lighthouse when it is empty. It was first lit during a ceremony on 31st August 1898 and was in service for eighty-six years. It was electrified in 1977 and decommissioned in 1984.

These curving steps take you to the top of the lighthouse where the wind roars and screams across the headland.

There have been many wrecks around the headland such as the SS California, a four mast ship which was driven ashore south of the Island on 15th January 1913. Eight men died. And the Janet Clark which lies on the east side of the Island and foundered in a storm on 24th December 1894.

There is also the wreck of the Gothenberg City on the north side of the Island which was carrying cattle and timber; it was wrecked on 26th June 1891.

And the Longhirst sank on the rocks known as the 'Outer Bells' on the north side of the Island on 7th January 1878, but of course there are many more!